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Will soon blow o'er, thinking to mend ourselves
By boldly vent'ring on a world unknown,
And plunging headlong in the dark ! 'tis mad:
No frenzy half so desperate at this.
Tell us, ye dead! will none of you in pity
To those you left behind, disclose the secret?
O! that some courteous ghost would blab it out,
What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be.
I've heard, that souls departed have sometimes
Forewarn'd men of their death : 'twas kindly done
To knock and give the alarm. But what means
This stinted charity ? 'tis but lame kindness
That does its work by halves. Why might you not
Tell us what 'tis to die? Do the strict laws
Of your society forbid your speaking
Upon a point so nice? I'll ask no more ;
Sullen, like lamps in sepulchres, your shine
Enlightens but yourselves : well—'tis no matter :
A very little time will clear up all,
And make us learn'd as you are, and as close.
Death's shafts fly thick! Here falls the village swain, And there his pamper'd lord ! The cup goes round, And who so artful as to put it by? 'Tis long since death had the majority; Yet, strange! the living lay it not to heart. See yonder maker of the dead man's bed, The sexton, hoary-headed chronicle ! Of hard unmeaning face, down which ne'er stole A gentle tear; with mattock in his hand Digs thro' whole rows of kindred and acquaintance By far his juniors ! Scarce a scull's cast up, But well he knew its owner, and can tell Some passage of his life. Thus, hand in hand, The sot has walk'd with death twice twenty years; And yet ne'er younker on the green laughs louder, Or clubs a smuttier tale : when drunkards meet None sings a merrier catch, or lends a hand More willing to his cup. Poor wretch! he minds not That soon some trusty brother of the trade Shall do for him what he has done for thousands.
On this side, and on that, men see their friends Drop off, like leaves in autumn; yet launch out Into fantastic schemes, which the long livers In the world's hale and undegenerate days Could scarce have leisure for ; fools that we are ! Never to think of death and of ourselves At the same time; as if to learn to die Were no concern of ours. O more than sottish ! For creatures of a day, in gamesome mood To frolic on eternity's dread brink, Unapprehensive; when for aught we know The very first swoln surge shall sweep us in. Think we, or think we not, time hurries on With a resistless unremitting stream, Yet treads more soft, than e'er did midnight thief, That slides his hand under the miser's pillow, And carries off his prize. What is this world? What but a spacious burial-field unwallid, Strew'd with death's spoils, the spoils of animals, Savage and tame, and full of dead men's bones ? The very turf on which we tread once liv'd ; And we that live must lend our carcasses To cover our own offspring : in their turns They too must cover theirs. 'Tis here all meet! The shivering Icelander, and sun-burnt Moor; Men of all climes, that never met before; And of all creeds, the Jew, the Turk, the Christian. Here the proud prince, and favorite yet prouder, His sov'reign's keeper, and the people's scourge, Are huddled out of sight. Here lie abash'd The great negotiators of the earth, And celebrated masters of the balance, Deep read in stratagems, and wiles of courts : Now vain their treaty-skill! Death scorns to treat. Here the o'erloaded slave flings down his burden From his gall’d shoulders; and when the cruel tyrant, With all his guards and tools of power about him, Is meditating new unheard-of hardships, Mocks his short arm, and quick as thought escapes Where tyrants vex not, and the weary rest.
Here the warm lover, leaving the cool shade,
The tell-tale echo, and the bubbling stream,
Time out of mind the fav'rite seats of love,
Fast by his gentle mistress lays him down
Unblasted by foul tongue. Here friends and foes
Lie close, unmindful of their former feuds.
The lawn-rob'd prelate, and plain presbyter,
Ere while that stood aloof as shy to meet,
Familiar mingle here, like sister-streams
That some rude interposing rock had split.
Here is the large-limb'd peasant; here the child
Of a span long, that never saw the sun,
Nor press'd the nipple, strangled in life's porch:
Here is the mother with her sons and daughters;
The barren wife; the long-demurring maid,
Whose lonely unappropriated sweets
Smild like yon knot of cowslips on the cliff,
Not to be come at by the willing hand.
Here are the prude severe, and gay coquette,
The sober widow, and the young green virgin,
Cropp'd like a rose before 'tis fully blown,
Or half its worth disclos'd. Strange medley here!
Here garrulous, old age winds up his tale;
And jovial youth, of lightsome vacant heart,
Whose every day was made of melody,
Hears not the voice of mirth: the shrill-tongu'd shrew,
Meek as the turtle-dove, forgets her chiding.
Here are the wise, the generous, and the brave ;
The just, the good, the worthless, the profane,
The downright clown, and perfectly well-bred;
The fool, the churl, the scoundrel, and the mean,
The supple statesman, and the patriot stern;
The wrecks of nations, and the spoils of time,
With all the lumber of six thousand years.
Poor man! how happy once in thy first state,
When yet but warm from thy great Maker's hand,
He stamp'd thee with his image, and well-pleas'd
Smil'd on his last fair work! Then all was well.
Sound was the body, and the soul serene;
Like two sweet instruments, nc'er out of tune,
That play their several parts. Nor head, nor heart
Offer'd to ache; nor was there cause they should,
For all was pure within : no fell remorse,
Nor anxious castings up of what may be,
Alarm'd his peaceful bosom: summer seas
Shew not more smooth when kiss'd by southern winds,
Just ready to expire. Scarce importun'd,
The generous soil with a luxuriant hand
Offer'd the various produce of the year,
And every thing most perfect in its kind.
Blessed, thrice blessed days! but, ah! how short !
Bless'd as the pleasing dreams of holy men,
But fugitive, like those, and quickly gone.
O slippery state of things! What sudden turns,
What strange vicissitudes, in the first leaf
Of man's sad history ! to-day most happy ;
And, ere to-morrow's sun has set, most abject!
How scant the space between these vast extremes !
Thus far'd it with our Sire: not long he enjoy'd
His paradise! scarce had the happy tenant
Of the fair spot due time to prove its sweets,
Or sum them up, when straight he must be gone,
Ne'er to return again. And must be go?
Can nought compound for the first dire offence
Of erring man ? Like one that is condemn'd,
Fain would he trifle time with idle talk,
And parley with his fate. But 'tis in vain.
Not all the lavish odors of the place
Offer'd in incense can procure his pardon,
Or mitigate his doom. A mighty angel
With flaming sword forbids his longer stay,
And drives the loiterer forth ; nor must he take
One last and farewel round. At once he lost
His glory and his God. If mortal now,
And sorely maim'd, no wonder ! Man has sinn'd.
Sick of his bliss, and bent on new adventures,
Evil he would needs try: nor tried in vain.
(Dreadful experiment! destructive measure!
Where the worst thing could happen, is success.)
"las! too well he sped: the good he scorn'd
Stalk'd off reluctant, like an ill-us'd ghost,
Not to return; or, if it did, its visits
Like those of angels short, and far between :
Whilst the black dæmon, with his hell-scap'd train,
Admitted once into its better room,
Grew loud and mutinous, nor would be gone;
Lording ít o'er the man, who now too late
Saw the rash error which he could not mend;
An error fatal not to him alone,
But to his future sons, his fortune's heirs.
Inglorious bondage! human nature groans
Beneath a vassalage so vile and cruel,
And its vast body bleeds thro' every vein.
What havock hast thou made, foul monster, Sin!
Greatest and first of ills ! the fruitful parent
Of woes of all dimensions! but for thee
Sorrow had never been. All noxious things
Of vilest nature, other sorts of evils,
Are kindly circumscrib'd, and have their bounds.
The fierce volcano, from its burning entrails
That belches molten stone and globes of fire,
Involv'd in pitchy clouds of smoke and stench,
Mars the adjacent fields for some leagues round,
And there it stops. The big-swoln inundation,
Of mischief more diffusive, raving loud,
Buries whole tracts of country, threat'ning more;
But that too has its shore it cannot pass.
More dreadful far than these, sin has laid waste,
Not here and there a country, but a world ;
Dispatching at a wide-extended blow
Entire mankind, and for their sakes defacing
A whole creation's beauty with rude hands ;
Blasting the foodful grain, the loaded branches,
And marking all along its way with ruin.
Accursed thing! O where shall fancy find
A proper name to call thee by, expressive
Of all thy horrors ? pregnant womb of ills !
Of temper so transcendently malign,
That toads and serpents of most deadly kind